INTERLUDE: A Letter to My Younger Self

Hey, kid! Yeah, you. I’m you, 15 years down the line. Scary, isn’t it? The thought that the future version of you is in any position to write a letter to his younger self? Trust me, I didn’t expect this, either.

Like with pretty much everything else, you can blame this on professional wrestling (yep, you’ll still be watching). One of the guys you grew up watching, Diamond Dallas Page, wrote one of these, and he did it so well that it brought up things I’d forgotten. One of those things is that you just came back from your ninth-grade orientation at Kingston High School, and in that folder you’re carrying was a copy of the next day’s Daily Racing Form past performances for Saratoga.

Here’s the kicker, kid. What if I told you that, by the time you’re 29, you’ll be working for them and doing a lot of the things you’ve always wanted to do? Cool, right? It is. There’s just one thing you need to know.

That family curse your dad talks about, the one where a Champagne can’t ever do things quietly? You’ve got it, and you’ve got it bad.

Because of this, your trip to where I’m at now will be a long, strange one, complete with many twists, turns, and crazy moments that you’ll swear can only happen to you. Just bear with me on this one, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

– – – – –

You know that audio-visual club you joined, KHS-TV? That’ll be one of the best things that’s ever happened to you. Your advisors, John Moriarty and Andrew Sheber, will learn a lot about you over the next few years, and they’ll be instrumental in forging the person you want to be.

It seems daunting as a nervous, pudgy high school freshman, but over the next few years, you’ll wind up being the main sports reporter for the club. Your junior and senior years will consist of traveling with teams, going in extra early the next day to cut highlights, picking up PA announcing work on the side, and ultimately becoming one of the most visible people at the school.

Your senior year, you’ll also write for the newspaper. Your attitude won’t sit well with some people. In fact, at the end of the year, the award you’ll win from advisor Sean O’Brien (one of the good guys) is entitled, “I used to be conceited, but now I’m perfect.” That won’t bother you, and it won’t bother you for a defined reason: Nobody can ever accuse you of not putting in the necessary work. Hell, there will be one newspaper where your grade for the journalism class that puts out the newspaper is something in the 210’s out of 100, simply because your name is on five or six different stories.

Opinions of you will vary widely. Some teachers (including your English and science fiction teacher, Mr. Stein, who you’ll co-host a game show with) will love you, and so will some students, including Ted King-Smith, your best friend since kindergarten (want to feel old? You’ll be in his wedding in 2018). As a senior, you’ll even mentor a kid named Ron Miles who reminds you a lot of yourself. Get ready for this: He’ll go into football coaching, win a national championship as a graduate assistant with Ohio State, and work for an NFL team. Others (namely some fellow students and an athletic director at a rival high school you almost get in a fistfight with) won’t care for your shtick. Some student-athletes will have other problems with you, namely the music you play at certain sporting events. If you’re disturbed by how much I remember, know that I am as well. At this point, there isn’t much I can do about my mind being Sicilian in nature. I apologize in advance, because this won’t get better.

When it comes time to go to college, you’ll get lucky. You’ll have two top choices, Ithaca College and Syracuse University. Syracuse will make your decision really simple, because they’ll reject you. Don’t sweat this, because you’ll wind up going EXACTLY where you’re supposed to go.

– – – – –

Be very thankful that you have two good parents. You’ve always been close to your dad, and he’s the one that took you to the track as a kid and to high school sporting events when he worked for a small local paper. You don’t share a lot of interests with your mother, and even today, she gets angry when you get frustrated about not picking a winning horse. That said, she’s always enabled you to do what you want to do, even when your desired career path isn’t glamorous.

All of that plays a large part in getting you to Ithaca College, specifically the TV/Radio program at the world-renowned Park School of Communications. The reason you pick Ithaca is the ability to do what you want to do right away, and you were right to do it. Immediately, you become the primary PA announcer for Ithaca College athletics thanks to associate athletic director Mike Lindberg and his staff, and you also pick up TV and radio work, too.

As good as Mike Lindberg, Ernie McClatchie, and his team are, though, there’s one negative constant, and it’s your first exposure to someone with actual power not liking you. The head sports information director will be a thorn in your side for the better part of four years, including once berating you in front of the entire press box for having the nerve to go to the men’s room during a delay in a football game. He’ll even go after your father when he shows up for a few games, solely because he thinks he can do whatever he wants without any repercussions (he can’t, but more on that later).

That one person, though, doesn’t cancel out all of the good things you’ll do and all of the people you meet. As a senior, you’ll become one of the voices of Ithaca College football on WICB, and you’d better bring it, because the people you’ll work with are GOOD. Your partner is Josh Getzoff, who’ll wind up calling games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Your sports director is Nate March, who, in addition to becoming one of the top minor league baseball broadcasters in the country in his mid-20’s, will become one of your best friends (you’ll be in his wedding, too). You’ll call a game with Josh Canu, who’ll work for NBC Sports, and you’ll have a story for years to come when his car breaks down 40 miles from campus. Someone a few years younger than you, Gavin Cote, will work at ESPN and name-drop your beloved 1994 Chrysler LeBaron in a speech at Nate’s wedding (somehow, by the way, that car will get you through college). The sports radio and TV staffs become one big family, complete with irrational blowups at one another and wars about everything from women to the intramural flag football team (spoiler alert: your team stinks), but you’ll meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have by doing that.

You’ll also make real connections with some of your professors. You’ll play golf with a guy named Stephen Mosher, who’s pretty much Robin Williams’s character from “Good Will Hunting” come to life. You’ll talk horses with Jack Powers, whose credits include consultations on a hit TV show called “Modern Family.” You’ll love Peter Johanns, especially since he won’t kill you for counting the number of times he says the phrase, “something along those lines,” during his Advanced Studio Production class.

Even better, you’ll get the experience of a lifetime in 2010. Crazy as it sounds, NBC uses student interns from Ithaca and Syracuse during the Olympics. You’ll intern at the Winter Games in Vancouver as part of the Highlights Factory. You’ll meet Lester Holt, Mary Carillo, Al Michaels, and Bob Costas. You’ll go to the women’s curling semifinals with Nick Karski, who will spend most of his time wondering why he went to a curling match with a guy who never shuts up (don’t worry, part of that is why you two get along splendidly). You’ll work side-by-side with high-level guys like Brian Gilmore, Eric Hamilton, and Gary Quinn, all of whom are tremendous at their jobs, but even better people. Furthermore, it turns out you’ve got distant family in Vancouver who will show you around, even taking you in for a home-cooked meal when they have no obligation to do so.

Those six weeks will be some of the best weeks of your life. You’d better enjoy them, though, because when you get home, it’s going to be tough.

– – – – –

For all of the shtick you put forth sometimes, you’re also pretty conscientious about planning things. You major in TV/Radio at Ithaca while somehow pulling off a double-minor in Sport Studies and Speech Communication and somehow do it in 3 1/2 years, allowing you to get a three-month head start on a job hunt once you fly back from Vancouver. Having said that, I need to warn you: These next few months won’t go well.

You’ll send your resume to every single college athletic department, TV station, radio station, and newspaper you can think of. You’ll get varying responses, including some very nice rejections and a few mean ones (one of which you’ll still have in a separate email folder in 2017 because it stuck with you). Finally, in October, you’ll get a call from Siena College, and you’ll go to work…pretty much doing everything in the one department you swore you’d never work for at Ithaca: Sports information.

(By the way, remember how I said there’d be more on the Ithaca SID? Yeah, he’ll get fired a few years after you leave, and by the accounts of some people you trust, nobody will stand up for him as his fate is decided.)

You’ll work there for two years, and you’ll bust your butt before getting a full-time offer from The Saratogian. That puts you back at the racetrack, and in the stands at high school and college games in the area. You’ll love going to games, and you’ll love the people you work with (some of whom you’ll be close to years after you leave that paper). People loving you, though? That’s going to be dicey sometimes. You’ll get yelled at by a few people for impersonating “The West Wing” communications director Toby Ziegler’s ball-throwing tendency when thinking, and one of your co-workers will act in an unforgivable way at the track in the summer of 2013. Still, nobody can ever logically accuse you of not putting in the work, and that’s what gets you through that summer.

The day after Labor Day, you’ll take a train to New York City. You’ll head into a lounge at a hotel and meet a man named Phil Kubel, who’s hiring for the digital media arm of HRTV. It’s based at Santa Anita, and after meeting you, he’ll fly you out to California. You’ll sit in on meetings with execs like Amy Zimmerman and Michael Canale, and ultimately, you’ll move west the next month, in need of a fresh start that the job provides.

You’ll get it, and then some. You’ll love what you do, you’ll love being at the track every day, and, six weeks after you move, you’ll meet someone you’ll fall head over heels for. Trust me, kid. As bad as things seem directly before your move, you’ll know instantly that you’ve made the right decision to move when you meet her. She’s infinitely better-looking than you are, she’s actually got a desire to do the dirty work 99% of Americans will never want to do, and even though she doesn’t know it when you meet her, she’s destined to be the best third-grade teacher anyone could ever ask for.

You’ll get sent to Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races, some of the most well-known broadcasters will take a liking to you (namely Caton Bredar, Jeff Siegel, and Aaron Vercruysse), and even after a brief hiccup in the summer of 2014 that you’ll save the full story about for your memoirs (to be written once certain people retire or die), things will seem to be going incredibly well…and then you’ll get a monkey wrench thrown into everything.

You see, the TV station you work for will be sold to its main competitor, TVG, in early-2015. There’ll be a few weeks of uncertainty with regard to future employment, and you won’t know where money will come from. Thankfully, two men, Bhavesh Patel and Stephen Kennelly, will bring you into the fold, and, even better, they know how to manage you. You’re going to stun Bhavesh into silence at a meeting when you display your expertise, and rather than micromanage you, he and Stephen will simply recognize that you know how to do your job and leave you to it.

You won’t just handle digital media for them. You’ll handicap for them, and bluntly, you’ll be surprisingly good at it. In an age where people will look for any reason to complain about public handicappers (if you think it’s bad now, kid, just wait a few years until something called Twitter comes along), you’ll post a $500 profit on Pick Four tickets in 2015 and pick winners at a 27% clip in 2016. You’ll also host online broadcasts for them and be in charge of getting eyeballs on online content. You’ll gladly go the extra mile for what you do, especially since you’re paid hourly. What’s more, they’ll let you handicap for The Saratogian, where you’ve ascended to the role of featured handicapper following the retirement of Nick Kling (one of the best to ever pick horses on a daily basis).

Better still, you’ll meet people like you. There’ll be a guy in marketing who you work next to, and you won’t know a thing about him when you start. However, on a random walk to the other side of the office in your first week at TVG, you’ll notice Danny Kovoloff is reading the same wrestling blog you read. You’ll exclaim, “YOU’RE A SCOTT KEITH GUY!!!,” and giggle like a schoolgirl, and that’s how you’ll know you’re going to be okay.

You’ll meet two different Italian versions of yourself. One of them is headed out the door of TVG as soon as you arrive, it seems, but you wind up getting so close after he leaves that you get a standing invitation to Gino Buccola’s family’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza. Two side notes: One, his family may consist of the nicest people on the planet. Two, the greatest play of your athletic career will come at a softball game hosted near his house. Pro tip: At some point between now and Fourth of July in 2017, learn how to slide into third base.

The other Italian version of yourself is a track announcer that knows every small track like the back of his hand, it seems, and one who you’ll become close with in a bizarre way. You see, he’ll call a race at Gulfstream Park featuring a horse named Fallen Leaf, who appears to be on her way to victory. He’ll say, “No antics of any kind…,” only for the horse to prop near the wire and throw the jockey. He’ll deadpan, “…and there we go with the antics,” and your crazy mind will deduce that this must take off as a Twitter phenomenon. By Pete Aiello’s own admission, the era of the Aiellobomb will be a very strange time, but the two of you will begin bantering back and forth, and you’ll be better off for it.

You’ll also meet another guy to whom you’ll owe a debt you can’t repay. See, in 2017, your job at TVG will change drastically, to the point that you realize it’s time to look around (this is another story for the memoirs that can’t be written until certain people retire or die). This guy, who has never met you and barely knows who you are, will listen as you look for someone, ANYONE, to talk to about your situation. You’ll ramble, all while trying to sound somewhat coherent, and, bless his kind, Midwestern heart, he’ll give you an email address for Jody Swavy, the editor-in-chief at the Daily Racing Form. Within two months of the change in status at TVG, you’ll be on a plane to New York City to train for a job in digital media at the publication you just spent your high school orientation reading, and you’ll have Joe Nevills (and, by extension, fellow DRF Breeding colleague/former Saratogian sports editor Nicole Russo) to thank for a large portion of it.

Some of these people probably won’t like being name-dropped. The fact is, though, you won’t get anywhere without them. You’ll put in the work, but life’s about the people you meet and the relationships you forge. You don’t do Christmas cards, because you find them too time-consuming and boring, so you naturally choose to write 3,000 words (exactly 3,000, per Microsoft Word) to express your gratitude to those who deserve it, from your friends and family to a girlfriend that you’ve been with for four years and love very much. Like pretty much everything else you do, what some people think of as ego or a strong personality is really just trying to do the best you can at all times.

I don’t have a lot of other tips for you, because as I write this, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. It doesn’t matter that the journey followed a circuitous route. I’m happy.

Do what makes you happy. Everything else will take care of itself.


P.S.: Avoid the organic ice cream at the casino you visit in Aruba your senior year of high school. Just trust me.

A Degenerate’s Guide to Las Vegas

There are a few undeniable truths in our society, and this article revolves around one of them. That truth is a simple one, and it’s one you simply cannot challenge.

For a degenerate gambler, Las Vegas is the greatest city in the world.

I’m headed to the desert later this week for a few days. My dad and I do a few trips each year, and this one celebrates Thanksgiving and both of our birthdays. In my trips, I’ve been fortunate enough to see and do a lot in town, and this column consists of several lists, a few stories, and some tips if you’re making your way there. If you think there’s something I missed, tweet me at @AndrewChampagne. I’ll be writing a few articles from my hotel room at Flamingo, and if you think I’ve missed something or are curious about something in town, buzz me.

On with the show!

– – – – –


1) Bacchanal, Caesars Palace
2) The Buffet, Wynn
3) The Buffet, Bellagio
4) Carnival World Buffet, Rio
5) Le Village Buffet, Paris

I love buffets, especially when someone else is paying (hi, Dad!). The best buffets have a wide selection of tremendous food, and you can gorge to your stomach’s content.

Bacchanal at Caesars Palace isn’t just one of the best buffets in Vegas. It’s one of the best restaurants in Vegas regardless of genre. It’s not cheap, and if you go at the wrong time, you’ll be waiting in line for a while (this is Caesars, after all). However, once you get in, you’re treated to a smorgasbord of stuff, and all of it is outstanding (especially the dessert section).

Wynn and Bellagio flip-flop at the second and third spots with pretty much every trip I make. Wynn is probably better if you can stomach the lines and the trip there, but Bellagio is darned close, especially if you’re staying on the southern end of the Strip and don’t want to go all the way up to Wynn.

Rio’s buffet checks in at the fourth spot. If you like seafood, you may rank it higher; personally, I’m not much for seafood, but the rest of the buffet does enough elsewhere to get on this list. The top five is rounded out by Paris, and that’s a bit of a shame, because it used to rank with Wynn and Bellagio. It’s still good, and it’s by far the best fully-participating buffet in the 24-hour buffet deal Caesar’s properties offer, but they’ve recently downsized their food options, and that’s a bummer.

Honorable mentions: Wicked Spoon (Cosmopolitan; I’m not much for the feel of the property, but the buffet is good), Flavors (Harrah’s; better for lunch than for dinner given the fare offered, but the extensive dessert selection is a big plus), Cravings (Mirage; nothing exceptional, but solid and consistent).

Dishonorable mentions: Paradise Garden (Flamingo; as recently as five years ago, this was an OK option, but it’s gone downhill sharply), The Buffet at TI (Treasure Island; I’ve gotten sick here and am in no hurry to go back, which is a shame because I love gambling here), Excalibur Buffet (Excalibur; no, just no).

– – – – –


1) The old O’Shea’s
2) Poker room, The Linq
3) Poker room, Luxor
4) The old sports book, Caesar’s Palace
5) Bill’s

The only similarities between the new O’Shea’s and the old one (which was torn down a few years ago to make room for The Linq’s expansion) are the name and the leprechauns. In fact, my father took video of a publicity stunt just before O’Shea’s closed. Leprechauns in full costume paraded around the front door with picket signs saying “SAVE O’SHEA’S,” and it’s just as funny as it sounds.

Anyway, while management threw O’Shea’s lovers a bone with the new wing of The Linq, it’s not the same. It’s overly loud, the acoustics are terrible, it attracts people who have no idea how to play the games they offer, and while the 24/7 spread of $5 blackjack is a plus, it’s actually more fun (for me, at least) to play that game inside The Linq than it is to play at O’Shea’s.

Back when it was known as The Quad, The Linq had a four-table poker room that ran cheap poker tournaments every three hours. The quality of opposition was pretty bad, and you could do pretty well there just by playing smart. Unfortunately, they closed the room to put slot machines in that space.

Upper management has also closed the poker room at Luxor, and that was a bummer when I went there earlier this year. They used to give players who made final tables at tournaments small toys shaped like the Luxor’s pyramid, complete with a button at the bottom that lit the top up as a laser pointer. I still have mine, and it makes for a toy that drives my cat nuts.

Caesar’s Palace has done a great job renovating their sports book. However, one of the things they did at the outset of that renovation was stick a bar right in front of the seating area, and that really hurt the mood of the place. You used to be able to use that space to congregate and mingle with whoever passed by, and that created a familial atmosphere of sorts. Placing the bar where they did took a lot of the charm away from the book, and while they’re working to get it back, it can’t be the same as it was before.

We’ll close the list with Bill’s, which was renovated and relaunched as The Cromwell a few years back. Bill’s had no frills (catchy, huh?), and it knew exactly what it was. It was a haven for degenerate gamblers who wanted fun for cheap, complete with ample $5 blackjack and very bad karaoke. On my first trip to Vegas in 2010, I walked into the building and sat down, looking to kill time. In succession, I watched a group of women butcher “Come On Eileen” by not knowing any words besides the chorus, followed by the whitest guy in three counties (which was somehow not me) nailing every word to “The Humpty Dance.” Try as it might, The Cromwell can’t recapture that magic.

– – – – –


1) Casino Royale
2) Treasure Island
3) Flamingo
4) Harrah’s
5) The Cromwell

If you’ve never heard of Casino Royale, it’s not surprising. Casino Royale isn’t on the front page of any Vegas tourism brochures. The building’s sort of a dump, and it also houses a Denny’s and a White Castle as opposed to a Ruth’s Chris or a Morton’s. However, Casino Royale is one of only a few casinos in town that houses a blackjack switch table (that sound you hear is my father banging his head against either a desk or a nearby wall at the mere mention of this game).

Never played it? It’s a gas. You get to play two hands at once, and the name comes from the player’s ability to switch the top two cards. In return, all blackjacks are treated the same as any other 21 (you get paid even-money, rather than 6/5 or 3/2 odds), and all dealer 22’s are pushes. If you can stomach those two quirks (and at $5, they’re palatable), it’s a very fun game, and you can make money by playing for pushes and hoping the dealer busts. If that’s not your speed, they’ve also got other variants of card games, a sports book that offers fun prop bets, and, for the low-cost beer connoisseurs out there, $1 bottles of Michelob.

Fellow horseplayers know Treasure Island as the home of the National Handicapping Championship, and it’s one of my favorite places to gamble. There’s a great mix of people, which means that your odds of finding a good blackjack table where everyone works together are good. During slow times, they’ll offer $5 blackjack, and a good portion of those games use a standard shoe (rather than an auto-shuffler). Some of them even offer 3/2 payouts on blackjack, which stands out when most of the neighbors are offering 6/5. Just stay away from the buffet.

Flamingo is a frequent base of operations for yours truly. You can’t beat the location, and the offerings inside are reasonable. The poker room usually has cheap, beatable games going, $10 blackjack is spread around the casino, and while the race and sports book won’t win any awards, the chairs are comfortable and there are plenty of screens. The one negative is that their grandfather clause isn’t friendly to players. If you’re lucky enough to find a $5 blackjack table at most places, you’ll get that limit until you get up from the table. Here, you get a shoe or two after the limits go up, and then you must play for the elevated minimum. That’s a real downer, but other than that, it’s a fun time.

Harrah’s is pretty similar (which makes sense, given that both Harrah’s and Flamingo are owned by the same parent company). Of note, their race and sports book, while a bit small, is underrated. There are many comfortable chairs, and the atmosphere is fun. They’ll occasionally spread a few $5 blackjack games, too, and they run a fun bounty tournament in the poker room from time to time as well.

I’ve mentioned that The Cromwell replaced Bill’s, and while that’s a bummer, the updated property does boast $5 blackjack. Additionally, during busy times, the “sports book” is the best-kept secret in the city. There’s no place to watch the games, just a few lonely betting windows. However, this works to the benefit of the gambler that knows what action he or she wants. You can get in and out very quickly, and that’s a godsend sometimes.

– – – – –


1) Rio
2) Palms
3) Hard Rock
4) Golden Nugget
5) Binion’s

Rio is the home of the World Series of Poker, and even if you’re not playing, there’s nothing quite like walking through the huge halls where tournaments and side games are being played. It’s a ton of fun, and the casino itself isn’t too bad once you know where you’re going.

Palms was much more fun about five years ago. Some of the shine’s come off the place, but it’s still not a bad casino to stop at. They’ve spread blackjack switch in the past, which helps, and table limits are usually reasonable.

I wanted to rank Hard Rock higher on this list. I’ve had fun here, and my very first time in Vegas saw me come here and win a decent chunk of change playing blackjack. However, the casino has changed since then. The limits have gone way up, and it’s upsetting to make a trip over here and not feel comfortable playing anything.

Fremont Street is a fun alternative to the Strip, and Golden Nugget and Binion’s are two of the most well-known properties in that neck of the woods. Golden Nugget is the most high-end property in that neighborhood, and if you want to feel like a big shot while not spending the necessary money to actually BE a big shot, this is a decent spot to do it. One note, though: Cell phone service is garbage inside the casino.

Binion’s is not exactly what it was 15 years ago, when it hosted the World Series of Poker and became the epicenter of the poker boom when Chris Moneymaker won it and spawned a legion of wannabes (self included). However, from an “if walls could talk” perspective, it’s an incredible place to stop at. The casino’s poker room houses a wall of photos of past WSOP main event winners, there’s a card table signed by past champions, and you can get your picture taken with a million dollars. If you want a sense of “old Vegas,” this is a must-stop.

– – – – –


– On one of my first trips to Vegas, I walked into The Mirage and spotted a $5 blackjack table. I texted my dad to let him know where I was, and the ever-personable dealer, whose table I hadn’t even sat down at, looked up and grunted, “DON’T EVEN THINK OF DOING THAT AT MY TABLE.”

Most of the time, this would be grounds for bolting from the premises. However, I’m overly competitive, so I sat down and proceeded to go on a ridiculous run where I won $80 in one shoe. The dealer was, shall we say, very displeased every time he paid me, and he didn’t say more than two or three words the whole time.

On the last hand of the shoe, he dealt me 20, and then drew a four-card 21 to beat me. He looked at me as if to say, “I’ve got you now,” to which I responded, “Color me up, please.” His jaw dropped in horror as if I’d just spilled my drink all over the table, and I’ve never played blackjack there since.

– New York New York advertises $5 blackjack at all hours, so I went down one day. It’s not my favorite spot to begin with. It’s a ways away from pretty much anywhere else on the Strip, for one, and a lot of the place just seems cheesy (although there’s a sports bar there that’s actually a pretty fun place). However, $5 blackjack is $5 blackjack, so I made the trip. I wish I hadn’t.

I sat down to play, and the dealer showed a six. A player asked for advice on what to do with her hand, and the dealer purposely ignored her. She asked the table what to do, and I told her to stay (since she could bust and the dealer had the worst up-card possible). Doing this got me a dirty look from the dealer, but I thought nothing of it.

She left a few minutes later, and suddenly, the dealer started mouthing off about how, and I’m quoting, “nobody is going to tell MY PLAYERS what to do.” Are you kidding? She asked for advice, I gave her advice, and I’m the scummy one here? Much like Mirage, I left that day and haven’t played blackjack there since.


– When approaching a blackjack table mid-shoe, always ask if you can sit down, rather than simply barging in. This is simply good manners. If it’s a table with an auto-shuffler, it’s a bit more of a gray area, but I tend to ask anyway out of habit.

– Never split 10’s at a blackjack table. It will ruin table karma, and anything done out of greed in that town rarely ends well.

– If you’re going to a sports book to place a bet, know what you want to do before you get to the betting window. This is a pet peeve of any sports bettor, especially if it’s close to game time.

– No matter what else you do on your trip, go out of your way to see the Bellagio fountains at least once. It’s the coolest free show in town.

WAR STORIES: The Failure Files

There’s an old saying that talks about how experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. That’s never what one wants to hear in the heat of the moment, and in fact, there are times where, upon hearing such advice, the recipient of it may wish he or she had H. G. Wells’s time machine on hand to travel back in time and punch out whoever said it first. Trust me. I’ve been there.

Over time, though, I’ve found that that saying rings true time and time again. We’re supposed to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and learn from our failures. I’d like to think I’ve done a reasonable job of that, and, in some situations, enough time has passed to where I can comfortably discuss certain things that have happened. In a few cases, I can even look back and laugh, and that’s the purpose of the latest installment in my series of “War Stories.”

I’m not entirely sure how this will be received. If it helps someone out there get through something, though, whatever that may be, I’ve accomplished my goal. If nothing else, this’ll be pretty entertaining. Let’s get to it!

– – – – –


In the summer of 2009, I thought I was in a pretty cushy spot. I had just received word that I’d landed a prime broadcasting gig at Ithaca College that fall, when I would enter my senior year (more on that in just a bit). That summer, though, I had gone out and earned an internship at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, doing what they deemed as “marketing, promotions, and operations.”

I figured this was a chance for me to branch out and beef up my resume. Even then, I knew that not everyone who goes to college for one thing winds up doing that particular thing as a professional, so I prided myself on being as versatile as possible (a trait I still value today). They threw a lot at me when I walked in the door, and I had my hand in just about every part of the internal operations…and then, things got strange.

Two weeks into what was supposed to be an eight-week internship, I got called into the office of Shane Williams-Ness, who was then the director of marketing and development at SPAC. She somberly explained to me that due to the downturn in the economy (and, by extension, SPAC’s bleaker-than-usual financial forecast), I was being let go. The company was very apologetic about the whole thing, and to their credit, in addition to being paid for the two weeks I worked, I received another check for two additional weeks’ worth of pay, which wasn’t something they had to do.

I now had to figure out something else to do to make money before going back to school. Out of necessity, I applied for a job at the local Target store in Kingston, New York, and wound up working to unload trucks five days a week from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. It was NOT a glamorous job, but I vowed to push through it, get the bonus for working odd hours, and wind up better for it in the long run.

Right off the bat, it was not a good fit. The environment was toxic, with several bosses treating employees like the fate of the world rested upon our abilities to unpack and stack one box per minute while most of the neighborhood was still asleep. Additionally, while I put an honest effort in and worked hard to do the best job I could, manual labor and I have never really gotten along (there’s a reason I’m a writer, folks!), so I was pretty miserable.

Far in advance, they knew when my last day had to be (in order for me to get back to college). Two days before that date, my supervisor calls me into the office. For the second time that summer, I was let go for, in her words, “working hard, but not improving.” That’s a thing? And for unloading and unpacking boxes, of all things?

Ultimately, it only robbed me of two days’ worth of work, so I wasn’t too bummed out. They had said that my last check would be mailed to me. However, it wasn’t, and a week later, I called. As it turned out, it was sitting right there on someone’s desk, which I found fishy because payroll checks have a defined expiration date. I ran in, picked it up, and did not spend a dime at that Target location from that day until I moved to the west coast.

Two funny postscripts: The week after I was let go from SPAC, Coldplay cancelled on them due to a band member being sick. The phones did not stop ringing, and it would have been my job to answer them and calm down angry people who wanted refunds, so I dodged a bullet. Additionally, a few months after my tenure at Target ended, I was at college when my phone rang. I picked it up, and it was a bubbly manager from Target in Kingston, asking me if I could work the next day. I quickly hung up, and to this day, I marvel at the nerve it took to make that call.

– – – – –


Remember that prime broadcasting gig I mentioned way back when? Well, in 2009, I was part of a two-man radio booth that handled broadcasting Ithaca College football games on the campus’s award-winning radio station, WICB. The other half of said booth was my friend Josh Getzoff, who has since become one of the top young broadcasters in the National Hockey League while working for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s got enough Stanley Cup rings to fill a sock drawer at this point. I’ve got an invisible title belt from being the winningest public handicapper at Saratoga this past summer. Sounds pretty even, right?

Anyway, that year was a blast. Ithaca went 7-3 that season and capped off the season with a win over Cortland State in the annual Cortaca Jug game (the Bombers haven’t won one since; President Collado, if you want to bring me back to the booth for good mojo Saturday, call me!). However, what I remember most about that year were two road trips, ones that did not exactly go as planned.

The first was the longest trip of the year. Being a Division III program, Ithaca didn’t travel out of the northeast much, but they did head down to the Mid-Atlantic area for a showdown with Frostburg State, located in western Maryland. It was my turn to drive, so we threw our radio equipment in my legendary 1994 Chrysler LeBaron (immortalized in a pair of wedding speeches last fall) and made our way south.

Game day rolled around, and we traversed to the press box. The first traumatic realization we made was that there was no free food. One of the lessons I learned very early (from ESPN reporter and early-career mentor Sal Paolantonio, in fact) was this: If it’s not catered, it’s not journalism. As it turned out, Frostburg’s contract with their food vendor prohibited basic functions such as bringing food to a press box for the working press. As such, it was going to be a long day.

The second realization we made, though, was much worse. We attempted to plug our “blue box” (the equipment that transmits audio back to a radio station) into all three phone lines available in the booth…and all three phone lines failed. Frostburg’s poor sports information director apologized left and right as we freaked out, and as we freaked out, WICB sports director Nate March and engineer Nick Karski were freaking out even harder in the control room back in Ithaca.

Eventually, Josh pulled out his cell phone and called the studio. We were patched in through the board, and rather than calling the game on professional headsets, we called it via speakerphone over one of the first “smart phones” ever invented while poor Phil Stafford twiddled his thumbs on the sideline (since we couldn’t throw to him). Josh and I bobbed our heads up and down for three hours, and that we didn’t headbutt one another at all that afternoon was a minor miracle in and of itself. Somehow, we got through the broadcast, and thankfully, that’s an issue Josh shouldn’t have to deal with anymore given his current job!

The second road trip was a few weeks later. Ithaca traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, for a matchup with Springfield College. It was my turn to do play-by-play, and I was as nervous as I’d ever been before a broadcast. Springfield ran a triple-option offense, one where it was very difficult to see who had the ball at any given time. While I did an acceptable job on play-by-play (during a game that included me snapping at Karski during at least one commercial break), that offense ran roughshod over Ithaca, essentially ending IC’s chances at the Division III playoffs.

As disappointing as the game was, the day would only get worse. Josh Getzoff was off that weekend, and fellow distinguished Ithaca graduate Josh Canu (who now has a darned cool job with NBC Sports) filled in. He picked up the task of driving us to and from Springfield, and his car died on him about 30 miles from Ithaca, in the small, rural town of Whitney Point, pretty late at night. We had to call one of our friends, who dropped everything, drove the 40 minutes to Whitney Point, and picked our sorry selves up from a gas station that may as well have been the set of a third-rate horror movie (thanks, Lauren!).

In some ways, I didn’t have a traditional college experience. I didn’t take a single math or science course at Ithaca, but I gained as much real-world experience in my chosen field as I could, and I was done with my traditional coursework (which included a major and double-minor) in 3 ½ years. That experience, including the sometimes-comedic onslaught of pitfalls that came with my extracurricular activities, prepared me immeasurably more for the real world than any sort of traditional core curriculum ever could.

– – – – –


Here’s a fun fact about me. I’ve interviewed well for every job I’ve been fortunate enough to hold, but the best job interview I’ve ever had in my life was for a job I lost out on in pretty gut-wrenching fashion.

Anyone who graduated college in the spring of 2010 can recall how hard it was for new-to-the-workforce twenty-somethings to find a job. The economy was in a horrible place, and lots of good people were struggling. I had sent out my resume and demo reel to hundreds of prospective employers, and while I’d gotten a couple of bites, nothing had quite panned out.

However, in June, I got a call from a group that ran several radio stations in Duluth, Minnesota. They were looking for a sports director and liked what they heard, so we lined up a time to talk. When we did, it was one of the best professional conversations I’ve had with anyone, at all, ever. For 45 minutes, we went back and forth about my experiences and qualifications, as well as what the employer was looking for. It wasn’t a grilling, but an honest conversation, one that I knew I was holding up my end of as it was happening.

The phone call ended, and a few days later, I got another call from the land of 10,000 lakes. I was incredibly excited as I picked up the phone, but that excitement quickly waned. As it turned out, they talked to 15 or 20 people about the job, and had planned to fly a small group of finalists in for in-person interviews. I was informed that I had made that cut, but that the person they originally approached with the job, whose refusal had sparked a nationwide search for a sports director in a decent-sized city…changed his mind. With that about-face, they no longer needed someone.

I was crushed, and in hindsight, it’s easy to see why. When you do all the right things, and you put the best face forward that you possibly can, only for fate to step in like that, it hurts. It would’ve been one thing if I did my best and it wasn’t good enough, but in this case, it absolutely WAS good enough to advance me to the final stage of the hiring process. I say with absolute sincerity that, to this day, I have never had a better conversation with a prospective employer, and that includes talks I’ve had with eventual bosses at Siena College, The Saratogian, HRTV, TVG, and The Daily Racing Form.

Having said that, things work in mysterious ways sometimes. I’ve set forth on a career that I’m proud of, and I have no regrets about the way things have shaken out for me. I’m proud to be one of the top digital media professionals in my field, as well as one of the most respected handicappers around, and who knows? If I’d wound up with that job, I probably don’t wind up where I am now, with a job I absolutely love doing.

One footnote: That call came midday on a weekday. I was home alone at my mom’s house at the time, and while I was still annoyed by the time she got home, I wasn’t necessarily devastated. When she asked how my day was, I explained the situation. Without any emotion, this was her response.

“Oh. That stinks. Nothing you can do about it. I didn’t want you working there anyway.”


– – – – –


OK, kids, here comes the deep water. In the summer of 2013, I was going through a divorce, and my defense mechanism was to drown myself in work while on-site at Saratoga Race Course. When I say that nobody knew what I was going through, I mean it. I kept my personal situation to myself, and for a few weeks, things were going okay (due in no small part to the overtime checks that started coming from The Saratogian!).

One afternoon’s main event was the honoring of Ramon Dominguez, a future Hall of Fame inductee who was recovering from a major brain injury sustained in a fall earlier that year. This was to be his first public appearance since the accident, and it was a pretty big event.

Ramon had done an interview earlier that summer with then-NYRA broadcaster Richard Migliore (who I’m now incredibly privileged and grateful to call a friend). It was an in-depth back-and-forth, and an incredible look into some of what Ramon was going through at the time. If you have the time to spare, look it up on YouTube. If you want to watch it now, it’s okay. I’ll wait.

OK, good now? Alright. Here’s where the nonsense comes into play. Ramon and his wife issued a statement through the NYRA press office, and in typical Ramon fashion, it was incredibly classy. Long story short, it said that the family was extremely grateful for the well-wishes it had received from the press, but that they would not be answering questions, as they felt anything worth saying was in the interview conducted earlier that summer.

That day, I got to my post in the Saratoga press box and opened up my email. In it was a note from a fellow employee at The Saratogian asking what we were doing for the ceremony. I alerted this person of the note all reporters received, and that there wasn’t much we’d be able to do other than cover the ceremony straight. This…did NOT sit well with the recipient of that email, who then insisted I contact Ramon’s wife. Trying very hard to keep my composure, I responded that the note specified Mrs. Dominguez would not be talking, either.

I don’t remember much of the third email I received from this person (by now, I hope you’ve seen that I’m hiding identities to protect the guilty). What I do remember is a phrase that’s burned in my mind permanently, and one that, to be frank, has probably played a bigger role in motivating me to be the best I can be than almost anything else.

“But I guess you don’t care.”

Let me explain just how ridiculously insulting this was to me. I was going through a divorce nobody knew about at the time, and thus internalizing a lot as I attempted to do the best job I possibly could. I was doing the work of multiple people at the track every day, putting forth efforts that would ultimately earn statewide and nationwide recognition long after I left The Saratogian later that year. Of all the things I could ever be logically accused of, not caring about my job was not on the list.

I did something I had never done before and have only done once since. I hastily wrote an email to the paper’s then-managing editor, with the correspondence attached, and essentially, the gist was something like this: “I work WITH this person, not FOR this person, and I will not tolerate anyone, let alone a co-worker, telling me I do not care about my job. Fix this.”

To the managing editor’s everlasting credit, the problem was fixed. I received an apology from the co-worker in question the next day via email, and for the next two months (until I left for a new job), I barely heard a peep from that person. Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself at the workplace, and don’t take any undeserved nonsense from someone you don’t report to.

A Letter to Zenyatta and Ziconic Fans, Plus Santa Anita Analysis for 5/27/17

Dear Zenyatta/Ziconic Fans,

There’s something you should know before reading the rest of this letter, and, by extension, my analysis into Saturday’s card at Santa Anita. I am NOT a Zenyatta hater.

I have a deep respect for what the great mare was able to do. I was among the Hall of Fame voters that put her and fellow legendary female Rachel Alexandra in on the very first ballot. Furthermore, in an age where horse racing is in desperate need of stars, few are hoping harder that Zenyatta’s offspring can run than I am.

Ziconic is no bum, and part of his inability to win one yet hasn’t been his fault. He ran into eventual multiple graded stakes winner Dalmore twice in early-2016, and then, in his fourth lifetime start, he was beaten into submission by a little-known gray horse named Arrogate, who would later emerge as the top dirt horse in the world.

However, this is where I urge you all to breathe very deeply, because here’s where the gambler in me comes out.

It is my belief that any money wagered on Ziconic to win Saturday’s finale at Santa Anita…is dumb money.

(pausing to allow objects to be thrown in my general direction)

OK, done now? Good.

Anyway, here’s my logic. Ziconic’s fatal flaw throughout his career has been an inability to break well from the starting gate. In his six starts, he’s been closer than eight lengths behind at the first point of call just once. With that in mind, the rail draw is a huge problem. Not only will Ziconic likely concede considerable ground from the word “go” in Saturday’s finale, but he’ll probably have to check back sharply while doing so. Furthermore, the race itself has positively ZERO known early pace to speak of (more on this later). If you subscribe to the notion that pace makes the race, Ziconic is up against it, and would be even with a better post position.

Consider all of these facts, and then consider Ziconic’s likely price at the betting windows. A 3-1 morning line is conservative, given the Zenyatta fans that follow the horse and will bet with their hearts at the windows. My guess is that Ziconic goes off somewhere between 8/5 and 2-1, and I simply cannot endorse a win bet on a slow-breaking closer in a paceless race contested on a surface that is often very kind to early speed at that short of a mutuel.

I had a Twitter follower comment once that wagering on Ziconic was akin to placing flowers on the Zenyatta statue in the paddock at Santa Anita. I’m not heartless. I get that argument. However, as a horseplayer, I wake up every day in search of the elusive property known as value. When Ziconic (and before him, Cozmic One) is hammered at the windows to the point of being a monstrous underlay, value exists with the rest of the field.

If Ziconic blooms at a later age and turns into a star, nobody will be happier than yours truly. I work in social media, after all, and that story would play REALLY well. With that in mind, he’ll likely be bet like he towers over the field he faces Saturday. The facts show that he doesn’t.

Best wishes,

(braces for a social media backlash of epic proportions)

$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1, Santa Anita

R1: 3,6
R2: 2,4,6,7,8,10
R3: 6
R4: 2,4
R5: 1,6

48 bets, $24

This Pick Five ticket (which also includes the skeleton of a $12 early Pick Four ticket that begins in the second race) is built around the singling of Stormy Liberal in the Grade 3 Daytona. The Peter Miller trainee has four wins and two seconds in his last six starts, and has won three in a row going down the hill. The far outside post is a huge plus, and I think he’ll be tough to beat in that short field.

The other legs, though, are not easy. If One I’m Running To channels his 2-year-old form, he likely wins the opener comfortably, but coming off a long layoff and running for a $12,500 tag after thumping $50,000 maiden claimers last fall is a big red flag. As such, I also used Bitte, whose last race is a throwout given his slow start. A repeat of his races two and three back would make him a major player.

The second race is a mess, so I spread there before singling Stormy Liberal in the third leg (if you’ve got the budget to hit the “ALL” button, go ahead; I opted to keep the cost of the ticket down a bit). I settled on only using two horses in the fourth. Honor and Courage may be the only speed horse in the race, while Acker was a solid second in his debut and has the pedigree to love a two-turn route of ground. Finally, I was tempted to single Lady Eli in the Grade 1 Gamely, but I also had to use Avenge, who may be the race’s lone early speed horse. The latter has been working well, and all signs point to a big performance.

$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6, Santa Anita

R6: 3,4,8,9
R7: 3,4,8,9
R8: 1,2
R9: 5,10

64 bets, $32

Given the guaranteed pool and the wide-open fields, this is a Pick Four that could pay very generously. I spread in the first two races, and several horses I used are fairly big prices on the morning line.

The sixth is an optional claimer that looks much more like a stakes race. Taman Guard seems like the horse to beat, and when he’s on his game, he’s very good. However, he hasn’t run in nine months, and the post position isn’t great, so I added some more coverage. Texas Two Step should improve with the re-addition of blinkers, Boy Howdy’s two races this season for red-hot trainer Bill Spawr have been solid, and don’t overlook Pioneerof the West. He’s 20-1 on the line, and while he comes in off a long layoff, his best race would be competitive in this spot. Vladimir Cerin can win with horses coming in off this kind of a freshening, and he’d be a knockout horse.

I’m using the same numbers in the second leg, the Grade 2 Monrovia. Illuminant and Enola Gray merit respect, but Watch This Cat gets off the dreaded rail (which hurt her badly last time out against several rivals that also show up here), and Anita Partner has crossed under the wire first on four straight occasions, three of which have come in races contested at this route.

I’m going against Midnight Storm in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. There seems to be a lot of early speed signed on, and 10 furlongs may be just a hair further than he wants to go. American Freedom makes his second start off the layoff for Bob Baffert, while Follow Me Crev is in good form and should get plenty of pace to run at. If Midnight Storm wins, I lose, but if one of those two horses can beat him, many tickets go up in smoke, and I stand to benefit from it.

Finally, we come to the nightcap. This is the Ziconic race, and I’ll try to beat him with two horses, one of which is his stablemate. Oregon seems like the horse to beat based on his last-out effort. He didn’t get a great trip that day, but rallied to finish second in his first start around two turns. His race down the hill two back suggests he may have a bit more tactical speed than he showed in his most recent outing, and I also like the May 20th workout, which was sixth-fastest of 67 at the distance that morning. I’m also going to use Ample Sufficiency, who may very well be the speed in this race by default. He was 0-for-7 overseas, but he was beaten just a length in a Group 2 as a 2-year-old, and he gets Lasix for the first time in his U.S. debut. If Tyler Baze is aggressive out of the gate, this newcomer could lead them a long way.

INTERLUDE: Advice for New College Graduates (From a Degenerate Horseplayer)

Most times, when I post here, it’ll be about analyzing a horse race, or a card of races, or a Pick Four sequence. However, there are times where I feel the need to expound on more important things. Don’t worry; I’m NOT going to talk about politics! Done breathing sighs of relief? Good.

Anyway, an old professor of mine posted to Facebook Monday, saying that graduating seniors at Ithaca College were starting to come up to him and panic about entering the real world. He urged former students to post their career paths, and it turned into a gathering of young professionals giving advice on how to handle what happens when what you wind up doing isn’t what you were intending to do at an earlier point in your life.

Make no mistake, I love the work that I do. I help coordinate the Daily Racing Form’s social media efforts, which is a dream job for a lifelong horse racing fan who also has a passion for the written word and other forms of media production. The path I took to get there, though, more closely resembles a map from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” (where the heroes circled around for a long time before getting to their destination) than anything else.

I’m a little young to do a “letter to my younger self” kind of piece, but I’d like to think I’ve had enough life experience to give soon-to-be graduates (and anyone else in this position) some advice on how to deal with the curveballs they’ll be thrown going forward. My advice isn’t anything revolutionary, but it’s stuff learned from dealing with things that have happened to me, and hopefully, it helps someone out there.

1) Never close any doors.

When I was in college, I did pretty much every sports media-related thing one could do. I PA-announced home sporting events. I participated in the radio and TV stations. I wrote. I tweeted. I networked. I ate lots of free press box food, some MUCH better than others (with some press boxes eschewing feeding the working press altogether; looking at you, Frostburg State!!!).

About the only two things I didn’t do much of were sports information and newspaper writing. The sports information director at Ithaca College and I were not fans of one another, to put things very mildly. In fact, he’s one of two former work associates with a special section of his very own in my memoirs, which will be released in about 30 years when I need money to play Pick Four tickets. Meanwhile, I never did much writing for Ithaca’s award-winning student newspaper simply because I was neck-deep in other stuff (plus studies towards a major and two minors) and didn’t have time for it.

You can probably guess where this is going. My first job out of college was working in the sports information office at Siena College (thankfully for people with infinitely more class than the person I could’ve worked for at Ithaca!). After two years there, I moved on to my second job, which came at, yep, a newspaper. Granted, much of my duties revolved around stuff I’d already done (video production, website work, etc.), but the fact remains that I did things I never thought I was going to do, and I’m proud of what I did while at those stops. In the nascent stages of Twitter, I helped triple the follower count of the main Siena account, and while at The Saratogian, we won three different statewide awards for our digital media coverage of racing at Saratoga Race Course.

Don’t shy away from something different. Use what you know, learn what you don’t, and run with the ball when it’s given to you.

2) Get a work/life balance, and keep it.

Your first job is going to be a head-spinning experience. As the new person, you may get all the work nobody else wants to do, and it may seem daunting at times. Word to the wise: Work to live. Do NOT live to work.

What you’re doing likely isn’t rocket science (unless you’re actually an aspiring rocket scientist, in which case, this paragraph probably isn’t for you). I can count on one hand the number of busy-work assignments I remember from my first job that had to get done, for whatever reason. There were a ton, but I don’t remember them.

I remember things like how I skipped off to an OTB in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to get out of driving my bosses around during the 2011 MAAC basketball tournament (I played races from Delta Downs with six older Korean gentlemen who did not speak English). I remember heading to a casino in West Palm Beach between rounds of a golf tournament Siena “hosted” in Florida. I remember walking around in Inner Harbor on a trip to Maryland, looking at the plates on the ground outside Camden Yards where long home runs returned to the surface.

My point: Don’t forget about the big picture. Work hard, but don’t forget to do stuff that makes you happy. There are times where that’s easier said than done. One year at Siena, I didn’t have a single day off for a six-week stretch from New Year’s Day to Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t let office life beat you down.

3) When things get tough, breathe.

You’re going to mess up at some point. Everyone does; some people just know how to deal with it better. When it happens (not if, but when), don’t take it personally. Roll with the punches, do your job to the best of your ability, and get past it.

My story: In the summer of 2012, we had almost an entirely-new sports staff at The Saratogian. A clerk, who was not a devout racing fan, published a story online that had a headline calling the Haskell at Monmouth Park the Eddie Haskell Invitational. I didn’t author the story, and in fact had nothing to do with it, but as the main on-track reporter for the publication, I was the face of the paper.

Needless to say, our editor (Kevin Moran, who’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had) reamed us out, as he should have. A complete reassignment of the staff was discussed by senior management (above Kevin’s head), wherein I would be taken off the track so as to proofread everything before it went to press and people who weren’t necessarily racing fans would be on-track, producing racing-related content in one of the country’s few remaining horse racing hotbeds.

It was a disastrous idea, and we all knew it. We went to Kevin and fought for what we believed in, and to his everlasting credit (and probably the horror of upper management), he gave us the go-ahead to continue as we were. The next day at the track, the story was posted in the Saratoga press box, complete with the embarrassing headline. I gave it a day up there so people could get their laughs in, but the following morning, I made a show of tearing it off the wall, crumpling it up, and throwing it into the garbage can. It was a sign that it was time to move on, and move on we did, winning a pair of awards for our on-site coverage of Travers Day.

4) Be prepared for change, and don’t be afraid of it.

Things happen in life that knock the journey you think you’re on off-course. Sometimes, they’re work-related. Other times, these things have to do with personal lives. At any rate, you’ll be tested, and some of these tests won’t be fun ones.

My field (digital media) seems to change every five seconds. If I commandeered a time machine, went back to 2007, and told everyone that a form of online communication where posts are limited to 140 characters or less is one of the most valuable methods of reaching people around the world, I’d be outright laughed at. In 20 years, we’ve gone from VCR’s and tape-traders sending bulky tapes around the world to uploading clips onto YouTube, where a seemingly-infinite library of videos exist on any subject one can think of.

For that reason, the job you think you want now may not exist as-is in five to 10 years, or it may exist in a modified form. Don’t be afraid to learn new things. Be prepared for things to happen that aren’t in your plan, and meet challenges head-on. If you fall, fall forward, get something out of it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who care about you or those you respect.

I was helped by a lot of people to get where I am today, and paying it forward is one of the best things anyone can do. If you’re a soon-to-be graduate, and you think you’re in for a world of hurt in the real world, I can assure you that you’re not. You’re in the same position everyone else has been in at one time or another, and everything is going to be okay.

Need to vent? Need advice? Think I’m a self-important blowhard who shouldn’t be writing stuff like this (NOTE: if so, please reconsider coming to my website)? Click here to reach out directly. I read everything that comes in.